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NEWS | Aug. 21, 2023

Panama City scientist awarded Top Navy Scientist Award

By Cierra Burch, NSWC PCD Public Affairs

Dr. Richard Tatum, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) scientist, was recently recognized with the Individual Scientist Award from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) 2023 Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers Awards.

Tatum was one of 18 individuals and nine teams selected for the prestigious honor presented at the Pentagon Auditorium in Washington for the ceremony, June 15. He was only one of four to receive the Individual Scientist Award.

Tatum shared where his desire for serving the military rooted from and humbly points back to others as a main contributor to his success.

“Having this recognition means a lot to me in a very personal way. Unfortunately, both of my parents were not able to see me receive this award,” said Tatum. “Both were proponents of education and they encouraged me from a young age to be self-reliant and learn with vigor. In particular, my father, who served his country bravely in the Air Force by executing several combat missions in the jungles of Vietnam and as an aircraft mechanic during the Vietnam Conflict, would be particularly very proud of this accomplishment. For me, this is a culmination of all of their hard work to teach and inspire me to do and be better. I would also be egregiously remiss if I did not acknowledge and thank my wife, Jamie and son, Christian. They have provided so much inspiration and support to me. This award is very much theirs, as well.”

He developed and extended a mathematical framework to identify cost-effective, hypothetical autonomous systems to accomplish fleet mission goals.

“My hope is that we will be able to design more robust autonomous systems using the mathematics developed here at the Navy Lab. If we do this,” states Tatum, “then the fleet wins as they will have more viable unmanned options to execute for their missions, thereby reducing the need to place our military in harm’s way.”

Once this research is expanded further, it will lead to a streamlined process in design, accelerating the deployment of autonomous systems and decreasing the need for human involvement in dangerous missions. In addition to the life-saving benefit of his development and approach, it will also result in significant cost savings.

“Here at this Navy Lab, a significant portion of our mission is focused on advancing autonomy for the fleet and the direct impact it has on ensuring our service men and women’s safety while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” says Dr. Peter Adair, NSWC PCD technical director. “It is through valuing, fostering, and recognizing our workforce that we are able to have incredible scientists like Dr. Tatum to prioritize their research with the common goal in mind. We are proud of him and excited to see this research advance our Navy’s mission.”

Tatum’s recent achievement makes it the seventh Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Navy Scientists and Engineers win NSWC PCD has received across 10 years.